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Among the most lucrative

Vera Bradley stores ranked eighth on listing of sales per square foot

Vera Bradley stores are among the most profitable – and well run – in the nation, an industry watcher says.

The handbag maker ranked eighth in sales per square foot, according to RetailSails, research and consulting firm in New York. Vera Bradley, which has 76 retail locations nationwide, also was dubbed the fastest-growing company in 2012.

“Vera Bradley is certainly happy to be included on a list with so many other influential brands,” spokeswoman Melissa Schenkel said in an email statement, referring to Apple Inc., Coach Inc. and Tiffany & Co. “Our long-term goal is to open 14 to 20 stores per year. In 2012, we opened 20, and in 2011 we opened 17.”

Outlets average 1,800 square feet.

Fort Wayne resident Jolene Shatto recently shopped at the company’s Jefferson Pointe store.

“I like the colors, the sizes of the bags, and the fact that they are seasonal,” said the 54-year-old. “I shop here maybe twice a year and average about $100” on each purchase.

Calling Vera Bradley a must-have brand is an understatement, said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council.

“Obviously, it’s very popular with women who are very much attracted to it,” he said.

Being named the fastest-growing retailer along with its high ranking for sales per square foot shows that Vera Bradley is exercising controlled growth, Monahan said.

“They are very well managed,” he said.

Although smaller destination stores are big traffic generators at shopping centers, department stores and big-box outlets aren’t going by the wayside, Monahan said.

“They will still play an integral part,” he said. “That will be the case for many years to come.”

In fact, just last month Bon-Ton Stores Inc. of York, Pa., announced its decision to move into the former Marshall Field’s at Glenbrook Square. Remodeling of the 122,000-square-foot store, which has been vacant since 2005, will begin in February with officials expecting a mid-September opening.

Founded in 1982, Vera Bradley was the brainchild of friends Patricia Miller and Barbara Baekgaard. Besides quilted cotton handbags, the company is known for female luggage, accessories and home décor items. The company joined Wall Street with an initial public offering of stock in October 2010.

Shares are traded on the Nasdaq. To accommodate growth, Vera Bradley nearly doubled its distribution center and invested $22.5 million at the southwest Allen County site. The company also added 150 new jobs.

Highest Sales Per Square Foot

• Apple – $6,050
• Tiffany & Co. – $3,017
• lululemon athletica – $1,936
• Coach – $1,871
• Michael Kors – $1,431
• Select Comfort – $1,314
• True Religion – $1,227
Vera Bradley – $1,186
• Birks & Mayors – $1,082
• Fairway Market – $1,081

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